Accuracy in the reporting of studies in conference abstracts is important because the majority of studies in such abstracts are never further detailed in peer-reviewed publications, and data from such abstracts may be used in systematic reviews. Previous research on interventional studies in human biomedicine indicates that there is no guarantee of consistency between a conference abstract and paper in the reporting of results and other key variables. However, no research has been done to determine if this lack of reporting consistency in abstracts and papers extends to interventional studies in pre-harvest/harvest-level food safety. The goal of this study was to compare outcome results and other key variables between conference abstracts and subsequent peer-reviewed publications describing studies of pre-harvest and abattoir-level interventions against foodborne pathogens, and to determine whether the agreement in the results or key variables was associated with the time to full publication. A systematic search identified 59 conference abstracts with matching peer-reviewed papers (matches), and data on variables including outcome measures and results, pathogens, species, interventions, overall efficacy of intervention, sample size and housing were extracted from both the conference abstracts and the papers. The matching of variables between abstracts and papers was described, and logistic regression used to test for associations between variable matching and time to publication. Sample size was only provided for both abstract and paper in 24 matches; the same sample size was reported in 20 of these matches. Most other variables were reported in the majority of abstracts/papers, and with the exception of outcomes and intervention effect, the reporting of variables was relatively consistent. There was no significant difference in the numbers of authors, with the first author the same in 78.3% of matches. Of 231 outcome measures reported in both abstracts and papers, nearly one third (77% or 32.2%) had different results, with 32 changing direction of effect. More than a quarter of matches involved at least one significant change in outcome result. The overall conclusion on the efficacy of the intervention changed in 10.7% of matches. There was a significant association between increased time to publication and differences in the number of authors, and having fewer outcome measures in the abstract reported in the paper. These results suggest that data from conference abstracts should be considered with caution.
Copyright © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.